Akpabio’s Defection to APC: A Greediness or Smartness?
By Joseph Atainyang
Senator Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State, who singlehandedly imposed Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as Governor on Akwa Ibom people, has left the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, abandoning Governor Udom in the high seas. He has joined the All Progressives Congress, APC and will be officially received by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium this Wednesday. It was the former Governor who ‘forced’ Udom on the state because he was poised to averting an alleged ‘death covenant’ between him, an Annang man and Ibibio people, whom he had sworn to, as those he will put back into the office.
I remember vividly how in December 2014, Mr Udom Emmanuel became a ‘costly commodity’ who was sold at the Uyo Township Stadium by the PDP delegates who were paid one million naira each from public fund. Udom eventually became the PDP flagbearer and 22 other aspirations left for a 40 days and 40 nights ‘torture’ in the Wilderness of Abuja, through the instrumentality of Godswill Akpabio who allegedly manipulated the mercenaries that denied them access to the then President Goodluck Jonathan. The election came and, at least 30 souls became sacrificial lambs that helped in the PDP victory in the State. All legal tactics were explored by gallant Akwa Ibom people to unseat Mr Udom Emmanuel. But, Akwa Ibom citizens are quite familiar with the fact that, only rapture was capable of stopping Udom from becoming the governor. They are familiar with the mantra that WHAT GOD CANNOT DO, MONEY CAN DO and that WHAT MONEY CANNOT DO, “MUCH MONEY” CAN DO.
And so it came to pass that MUCH MONEY was being allegedly deployed to ‘buying justice’ at the Supreme Court of Nigeria for the retention of the ‘mangled electoral victory’ of Deacon Udom Emmanuel. The business kicked off and governance of groundbreaking had its smooth sail. Udom Emmanuel moved on, rolling out a deceitful and invisible industrialization policy. He settled down to relocate some important projects like the Ibaka Deep Seaport by inaugurating a technical committee whose duty was to technically delay the take off of the project so that he can possibly relocate it to Ibeno with particles of benefits drawn to ONNA, his home area. He took on roads but shabbily enjoyed ‘commissioning’ unfinished roads.
The most interesting part of Udom Emmanuel’s administration was, and is still his willpower to have sealed the debt profile of the government he was taking over from. While President Buhari had made public that he met “a virtually collapsing economy”, Udom Emmanuel must have met a very progressive purse, with enough reserve for his government. Even when political commentators and pundits prevailed on him to declare the debt profile of the state, he adamantly remained silent, sealing every loopholes to protect his ‘Great Teacher’. Of course, he had been a “been to” in the words of Ayi Kwei Ammar. He was a Lagos Boy-turned stooge who was not aware that Akpabio’s first press statement in 2007 was that of announcing the 40 million naira deficit left behind by the Victor Attah led administration. So, Governor Emmanuel was virtually a neophyte as far as politics was concerned. No wonder he could excitedly, during his inaugural speech at the Nest of Champions, named the Akwa Ibom International Stadium after Godswill Akpabio, his now traitor-tutor.
Drama started when he immediately sought the support of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to help him secure loans. He had got different loans of N 20 billion, N 10 billion as well as N 1 billion naira within a few months into his administration. But his pretention got a swollen posture as time went on, especially when he refused the first tranche of the bail out fund that was shared among most states in the country through the fatherly disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari. But when he could no longer do so, he surrendered and surreptitiously went to collect all the bailouts. Thank God to a committed Akwa Ibom based investigative reporter, Abasifreke Effiong who took it upon himself to expose Governor Emmanuel.
Udom Emmanuel also cancelled the employment of five thousand (5,000) teachers that Akpabio had facilitated when he (Udom) was Secretary to Government. He described the exercise as being fraudulent and not following due process. Although revelations from very authentic sources stated that Akpabio had absorbed three thousand (3,000) teachers from the Annang stock, sharing two thousand (2,000) teachers among Ibibio, Oron and other ethnic groups in the state, victims of the sack had dragged the government to court for the outright dismissal. When last year, an Akwa Ibom based National Industrial Court ruled in favour of the teachers, the Udom Emmanuel led administration immediately appealed the judgement, a show of strong contention with his predecessor. This is even as it has also been laid open that three thousand (3,000) teachers were again employed into the state Secondary Schools board in the year 2017 to handle science subjects, including English Language and Mathematics.
The current Governor saw what was on ground, the ‘Uncommon Transformation’ and decided to take upon his shoulders, the responsibility of delivery ‘Superior Performance’, although nothing could be pointed-at as superior. He thought of dismantling the political structure of the Great Teacher and rose to inaugurate the Dakkada initiative. Little by little, Udom gradually succeeded in nearly flushing out the followers of his political mentor. Of course, he has also raised his boys and built his ‘unstable and cracking’ dynasty. So, when in January 2018, the Great Teacher dropped a bomb that “all is not well with Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, it was an omen that a gory picture awaited the tail end of Udom’s initial single term arrangement on the governorship throne of Akwa Ibom State.
Consequent upon that declaration by the Senate Minority Leader, Udom had sent his right hand man, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, who is the Commissioner for Works to go and busy himself around the ongoing dualized Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, in pretence that efforts were being made to ensure that ‘all was well with Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District’. Even the Four Point by Sheraton Hotels at Ikot Ekpene has not also been put to use by the Udom Emmanuel led government, not to talk of the Ibom Specialist Hospital which has been abused from being an international referral centre to a place where patients would rather be victimized with accelerated death (may you rest in peace, Mboho’s President).
However, although Akpabio could be accepted into the APC fold, the picture remains very blurring as to what kind of interest is compelling him to make the move. He was the sole proprietor and purveyor of the Divine Mandate of Udom Emmanuel in 2015. Akpabio was the best campaign manager of Udom Emmanuel. He sold him and his wife to the Akwa Ibom populace, who however, could not have their votes count. Perhaps the deal between the Great Teacher and his student has been done. Perhaps Udom has paid all the debt left behind by Akpabio and of course, his (Udom’s) election was the most expensive in the whole country. So, whether or not Governor Udom has been able to free Akpabio of all debt may perhaps be immaterial, because part of the monies had been spent to buy Akwa Ibom into his hands.
It was not surprising when, last month, the PDP organized an endorsement rally to affirm their support to the reelection of both Governor Udom Emmanuel and Senator Godswill Akpabio. The latter had thanked them for the initiative but noted that it did not matter under which party he stood to return to the Senate. The town had then been inundated with countless series of rejoinders as to whether or not, Akpabio had made the statement. Even when about 15 senators were said to have dumped the APC, after it became obvious that President Buhari and the leadership of the party were not ready to yield to their antics, Akpabio, perhaps a mighty force behind the plot stayed back. A few northern governors have equally left the APC while some PDP stalwarts are gradually negotiating their ways into the ruling party.
At the moment, the PDP in Akwa Ibom State has reaffirmed its commitment to the support of Mr Udom Emmanuel for his second term in office. In a press statement issued yesterday by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Comrade Ini Ememobong, as a report of its recent Federal Constituency Tour, the party is ready to ensure that Governor Emmanuel returns to the hilltop mansion in 2019. The constituency tour which was led by the State Chairman of the Party, Obong Paul Ekpo, together with his lieutenants told Emmanuel that all party faithful were solidly behind his reelection mandate.
As measures to overhauling the seeming shattered political posture of the state, the Udom Emmanuel led PDP government summoned an emergency stakeholders meeting yesternight at the State Banquet Hall. Governor Emmanuel had called on all party faithful to remain loyal and resolute to ‘waging war’ against the APC so as to win elections in 2019. Of course, having been emboldened by the stakeholders from all across the state, the Governor was confident that ‘a miracle could happen’ so he can be delivered out of the stiff hands of his Great Teacher who took all the risks to foist him on Akwa Ibom people. At the said meeting, the former flagbearer of Labour Party during the 2015 gubernatorial race in the state, Senator Mrs Helen Esuene; Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien, Rt. Hon. Ndueso Essien, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, Senator Effiong Bob, Rt. Hon. Felicia Bassey, Senator Bassey Albert, Barr Emmanuel Enoidem and others bared their minds and pledged their ‘wobbling’ loyalty to the Governor.
Meanwhile, political commentators have said former Governor Akpabio is greedy and wants a juicy position in APC. They describe the Senator as a traitor whose game cannot be without a huge interest. Some even accuse him of being overzealously gluttonous and always wanting to stay in Abuja to control the State. They told whoever cared to listen that Godswill has graduated from political gangsterism to that of smartness where he is trying to negotiate his way to the top. Some even describe him as a Nigerian Maradona of modern days. Perhaps this is why Akpabio was seen bowing down to President Buhari in London on Sunday. He took a one-man-sqaurd journey to see the President who is on a 10-day working visit to London. This is one way the Senator wants to use to smoothen his sail to the top.
Conversely, many have seen the defection of the Senate Minority Leader as a means of amnesty, a situation which could save him from being tried and possibly convicted, as one who has some cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. They say Akpabio is making an escapade into APC and nothing more, because according to them, it is not possible for an APC person to be probed by the Buhari led government. Even so, many others are saying that Godswill Akpabio is eyeing the seat of the senate president which has been zoned to the South South for the next political dispensation. But, are these the actual reasons for his journey into the APC?
Recently, Justice Adebukola Banjoko of a Federal Territory High Court in Abuja convicted two ex-governors. The first was ex-governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame who was convicted on 27 out of the 41 counts contained in the charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in July 2007. He was to serve 28 years in prison. The judge also sentenced a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, to 14 years in prison for corruption. Reports say the former Governor who was currently a Senator under the platform of the APC was first arraigned on a 23-count charge for the offence in 2007.
In view of the foregone, it could be said that none of the projections earlier posited could possibly connect to the interest that has brought Akpabio into the APC fold. Perhaps Akpabio has his expectations as far as returning to the Senate is possible. But, one would not be very correct to think that he would be successful at possibly becoming a Senate President, absolutely unthinkable. Also of importance is that Akpabio cannot, as an APC person escape conviction by the EFCC, if he is eventually tried.
In inference, having been so keen to go through this postulation, one is left with a tough thought. Is Akpabio a greedy politician? Has he an interest which Governor Udom Emmanuel cannot let go? Is it about the single (four year) tenure that was signed with the Oron people? Is it that Udom Emmanuel doesn’t want to keep to his promise? What could be Akpabio’s interest that the PDP, both in the state and at the national levels cannot protect? If greediness is the main impulse dragging Senator Akpabio to the APC, is there anything he cannot get in PDP that is going to be satisfied in the new party? For those who think his decampment into the APC has a way of making an Oron governorship possible in 2019, have they realized that Akpabio is a stranger in APC? Smartness is possibly the only pointer to Akpabio that he and Governor Udom Emmanuel cannot win elections in 2019 under the PDP.
Joseph Atainyang is a journalist and public affairs commentator: 07036964637